Posts Tagged ‘Roger Ebert’

Roger Ebert, the famous film critic with whom I sometimes disagree but almost always respect for his reviewing and writing skills, says the following in this excerpt of his review of Rain Man (1988), which he gave 3 1/2 stars (out of 4):

“Rain Man” is a project that Hoffman and Cruise have been determined to bring to the screen for a long time. Barry Levinson came on board after three previous directors signed off on this material.

The problem, of course, was Raymond. If fiction is about change, then how can you make a movie about a man who cannot change, whose whole life is anchored and defended by routine? Few actors could get anywhere with this challenge, and fewer still could absorb and even entertain us with their performance, but Hoffman proves again that he almost seems to thrive on impossible acting challenges. “You want taller?” he asks in the audition scene in “Tootsie.” “I can play taller. You want shorter? I can play shorter. You want a tomato?” And he can play autistic.

At the end of “Rain Man,” I felt a certain love for Raymond, the Hoffman character. I don’t know quite how Hoffman got me to do it.

He does not play cute, or lovable, or pathetic. He is matter-of-fact, straight down the middle, uninflected, unmoved, and uncomprehending in all of his scenes – except when his routine is disrupted, when he grows disturbed until it is restored. And yet I could believe that the Cruise character was beginning to love him, because that was how I felt, too.

I loved him for what he was, not for what he was not, or could not be.

That last sentence moved me, and I admire Ebert for coming to that insightful conclusion.  I remember seeing the movie when it was released (I was only 19 or so) and being impressed with it, but until I had a son with autism and watched it again, I had no idea (a) how much greater an impact the film would have on me or (b) what an amazing acting job Dustin Hoffman did in somehow almost actually becoming a person with autism.

I do love my son for what he is – not for what he is not, or cannot be.

Even when he is alternately a fun-loving, happy kid and next minute a scratching, biting aggressor.

Yesterday was not a good day for Jonah.  Twice I went to the house – the first time to give Andy a break because Jonah’s behaviors had been ramping up and he’d attacked Andy – he ended up attacking me too toward the end of my visit; I have three rake-like scratches on the side of my cheek to show for it.

Just minutes before, we were playing and singing on the bed and he was asking for “black camwa,” which usually means he wants me to take some pictures.  (Sometimes he insists on “no camwa” or will ask for “grey camwa” which is an older camera I let him use)…

The second time I went to the house was when Andy called me to say that Jonah had broken his glasses and he needed me to ride with them to LensCrafters to get them fixed.  So we drove to the mall and I waited with Jonah in the car while LensCrafters, with their usual speedy service, fixed the glasses in no time.  Andy didn’t tell me exactly what had happened and I didn’t ask, but when we returned and I left the house, I told him to call me if he needed me.

One of my best friends, K, was celebrating her 40th birthday with a party at a local restaurant last night, and Andy didn’t call, so I can only hope Jonah was better for him for the rest of the evening.

You can’t see the scratches Jonah made on my face in this picture, but someone at the party thought I had lipstick on the far side of my right cheek, then looked more carefully and asked me what happened.  I explained very briefly and then un-tucked my hair from behind my ears so it would hide the scratches.  It was a fun party and I didn’t want to start talking about Jonah; when I do, I usually try to add some humor because otherwise I’ll likely cry.

In a few minutes I’ll call Andy to see if he’d like a break for an hour or two today.  I’ve taken on a lot of freelance writing work lately, which is great, but now I’m extra busy when I’m not at “real” work.  I’m grateful I’ve got tomorrow off so I don’t have to take the day off –  in the morning Andy and I are driving Jonah to Tradewinds to be assessed; I’m sure the trip will provide plenty of blog fodder.

Plus there’s supposed to be snow today and tomorrow – not a whole lot, but enough to make the trip an extra special pain in the ass, I’m sure.  Maybe Jonah will be fine and everything will go swimmingly.

Like the lottery commercial says:  Hey, you never know.

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